Batman

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1966-68


DAD: Bruce Wayne (Adam West) / Orphaned Single Guy

DAD’S JOB: Bazillionaire Crime-fighter

KIDS: Youthful Ward Dick Grayson (16)

WHERE’S MOM?: Mom and Dad (The Flying Graysons acrobatic team) killed by gangsters

STAND-IN “MOM”: either Alfred Pennyworth (Alan Napier) or Aunt Harriet (Madge Blake)

Oh yes, he is a TV Single Dad! And who’s more dangerous for his custodial charges, Bruce, or Dr. Quest? You’ve got the foreign-born domestic, the heart-to-heart talks with his “child”…but of course the only TV Single Dad show where Dad and “Son” wind up being lowered into a giant coffee pot!

Gidget

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1966-67


DAD: Russell Lawrence (Don Porter) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: College Professor

KIDS: Gidget (real name:Frances) (Sally Field) (15), Anne (Betty Connor) (17)

WHERE’S MOM?: Mom’s dead

STAND-IN “MOM”: Don’t know – yet.

Based on the Sandra Dee movie series of the same name, this show lasted just long enough to age Sally Field so she could become The Flying Nun.
Here’s a case of art imitating life: the Gidget series of movies, TV shows, and movie-of-the-week specials was based on a book by Frederick Kohner, who wrote about his experience of raising a daughter in California by himself in the fifties.

A revamped show, Gidget’s Summer Reunion, appeared in 1985 with a married Gidget (Mrs. Moondoggie?) still at the beach for some tasty waves. Fortunately, the show took a ratings bullet in the head after just two episodes.

If Gidget were on a final exam, I think a good question would be: “Compare and contrast the plot structures of Gidget and That Girl. How does growing up on the Pacific coast different from growing up in the environs of the New York Metropolitan area?”

UPDATE 9 April 2006: Alert Viewer Christopher begs to differ – –

“Howdy. My name is Chris, and I can’t believe I’m about to write an e-mail to you about the original Gidget book.

In the original book, Gidget’s mom is still alive, well, married to Gidget’s dad, and very present around the household. The book isn’t about raising a child near the beach on your own, but more about the things that teenagers do and get themselves into while their parents are unaware. Gidget’s mom is alive in the movie, too, but I haven’t seen it. I guess they axed the mom for the show to turn it into a more-profitable single dad angle, or something.”

Possible? let me know if you’ve read the books.

Jonny Quest

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1964-65


DAD: Dr. Benton Quest (voice of John Stephenson for first six episodes, then Don Messick) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Scientist / Maniac

KIDS: Jonny Quest (voice of Tim Mathieson)(10), Hadji (voice of Danny Bravo) (11)

WHERE’S MOM?: Who knows? Dead, hopefully.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Race Bannon (voice of Mike Road)

Another “nightmare Single Dad,” Dr. Benton Quest truly deserved to have his kids taken away from him. Jonny never went to school, was constantly being endangered by his father’s job,and actually murdered adults on several episodes. Don’t even get me started about Hadji. And, would you hire Race Bannon as a babysitter?

Trivia note: If you want to see what Mike Road, the voice of Race Bannon, looked like back in the 60’s, watch for the I Dream of Jeannie episode where Jeannie creates an imaginary boyfriend named “Tony Millionaire” — “Tony” is played by Mike Road.

Update: Alert Viewer Ina-Chan sent in a boatload of details about Jonny Quest. Here’s some quick facts:

In 1964 Hadji was voiced by Danny Bravo. Trivia note: Danny Bravo is one of the boys in the motion picture “The Magnificent Seven” .

Jonny Quest made a comeback in the 90’s. Check out the 90’s page for more information.

Thunderbirds

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1964-67

ITV

DAD: Jeff Tracy / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Billionaire recluse

KIDS: Scott, Virgil, Alan, John, and Gordon Tracy (late teens/twenties)

WHERE’S MOM?: Storyline says Jeff’s wife died because no one “rescued” her

STAND-IN “MOM”: Kyrano (Kee-Ron-Noooo!)

Hey, they’re made of wood, but so was Pinocchio, and he had a Single Dad! Thunderbirds had the same interpersonal dynamic as Bonanza, typical of most shows where the boys are all grown and still single, living at home. No fistfights in the saloon in town, though, because there was no town on the remote island where they lived. P.S. Who would name their kids after the Mercury astronauts? And why wasn’t there a Deke Tracy or a Wally Tracy?

Kyrano may be a Single Dad to his daughter, Tin-Tin, but it wasn’t clear if Kyrano’s wife lived on Jeff Tracy’s island.

Hank

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired 1965-66


DAD: Hank Dearborn (Dick Kallman) / Single

DAD’S JOB: Student-in-disguise

KIDS: Tina Dearborn (Katie Sweet) (5)

WHERE’S MOM?: Parents are dead.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Franny (Kelly Jean Peters) / babysitter

Okay, adult brothers can be TV Single Dads, too! (See “Kirk” on my ’90’s page.) Hank Dearborn’s parents died when he was 15, leaving him to support his little sister, Tina. Hank’s determination to go to college despite his situation turned him into an “undercover student,” sneaking into college classes using a variety of disguises. Of course, Hank was always trying to stay one step ahead of the registrar, Dr. Royal (Howard St. John).

Another waggle of the Songbird Memorial Wings for Shaul Ceder (ceder@netvision.net.il) for pointing out this ’60’s show. Thanks again, Shaul!
Update: Alert Viewer Valerie Ellis chimes in with some Sweet (as in Katie) info:

One role Katie Sweet did was on Bonanza. She was Peggy Dayton, the 9 (or so)-year-old daughter of the airhead (played by Kathie Browne) they tried to saddle Adam with when Pernell Roberts was giving them a hard time about his contract. She eventually went off with Guy “Zorro” “Lost in Space” Williams, who played Cousin Will Cartwright, when the female fans raised bloody hell about marrying off her and Adam. Katie Sweet was the best thing about those four episodes (The Waiting Game, The Cheating Game, The Pressure Game, Triangle Dec.1963-May 1964). She was a better actress than Browne and she and Roberts had much more chemistry than Browne and Roberts. But she must be closer to 45 or 50 than 40. I’m 43 and I was 7 when she was in those episodes. I only saw them in reruns. Hope this helps with the filmography. It does indeed, Valerie – thanks!

More updates: Alert Viewer Janet Roy relates a childhood experience with Katie Sweet:

…Could not resist the urge to forward a bit of info about Katie Sweet. She should be 45 years old and going on 46.

When I was in the 7th grade at Turkeyfoot Jr. High in Edgewood, Kentucky,(Greater Cincinnati area), she came to our school for awhile because she was staying with her grandparents for some reason. (Never thought about the reason). She was in our grade but not my class. This was the school year 1967 – 1968. She had that super long hair and it flew around a lot. She made a few class plays until one day she announced she was going back to Hollywood to do a movie. That was the last time I heard of Katie Sweet.

It was around 1973 or so after graduation she did appear again in the Northern Kentucky area to attend NKU for drama. (Not sure whether to teach or further education).

She again stayed with her grandparents in Ft. Wright, Kentucky.

After reading the article in the Kentucky Post newspaper, no mention of her ever again that I heard of.

I wished always I kept that newspaper article. I never forgot the time she portrayed a ghost in the class play. She looked so cute and was never a shy person.
Thanks for the look back, Janet!

Update, 29 June 2005: And the finale? Katie Sweet herself writes in!

I used to be Katie Sweet. And I’m alive and well and 49 and an insurance agent in Central Oregon — go figure… I never did sneaky things behind the teacher’s back but I did get in trouble for my skirts being too short at Turkeyfoot Jr. High in Kentucky. I can’t believe people remember me or have any interest in whatever became of me. I have three daughters – 27, 8 and 6 and this stuff on the internet blows them away almost as much as it blows me away. I enjoyed my career and must admit, for all the cool jobs I had and all the cool people I met( like Alfred Hitchcock when I worked on The Birds) the highlight was when I met Sean Connery with whom I’d fallen in love from watching Darby O’Gill and the Little People on to James Bond.

A huge tip of the Ben Cartwright Memorial Ten Gallon Hat to Katie Sweet for filling in the details after all this fan mail. Thanks, Katie!

O.K. Crackerby!

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1965-66


DAD: O.K. Crackerby (Burl Ives) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Richest man in the world

KIDS: Cynthia (Brooke Adams), Hobart (teenagers), and O.K. Jr. (age unknown)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead – unknown causes.

STAND-IN “MOM”: St. John Quincy (Hal Buckley), the Crackerby kids’ tutor

O.K., like Jed Clampett, was a recent billionaire. The difference was that O.K. was not okay about his roots, and was always trying to get his kids accepted into “High Society.” The tutor was hired to teach O.K.’s kids “ethics” instead of O.K.’s constant buying and selling of properties and people.

Update: An alert viewer from Israel pointed out that the Crackerby kids’ tutor, St. John (SIN-gin) Quincy, was played by Hal Buckley. St. John was an American, despite his British-sounding name.

A tip of the Lorne Greene Memorial Cowboy Hat to Shaul Ceder (ceder@netvision.net.il) for the inside scoop on the Crackerby’s stand-in “mom”, and the existence of O.K.,Jr. Thanks, Shaul!

Kentucky Jones

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1964-65


DAD: K.Y. “Kentucky” Jones (Dennis Weaver) / Widower (?)

DAD’S JOB: Veterinarian

KIDS: Dwight Eisenhower (‘Ike’) Wong (9)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead. Ike was an adopted orphan

STAND-IN “MOM”:Unknown

The late Mrs. Jones applied to adopt a Chinese orphan just before she died. Kentucky was left to care for a 9-year-old daughter and still manage a veterinary practice in Southern California. Kentucky was a reluctant dad in the style of “Bachelor Father.” By the way, the reason he was called “Kentucky” was because his initials were K.Y. … fill in your own punchline here.

Author’s Note: A lot of mail I receive about Dennis Weaver revolves around the mistaken idea that Gentle Ben was a TV Single DAD’S show. I think people confuse the plots of Kentucky Jones and Flipper and come up with Gentle Ben. For the record, the mom on Gentle Ben was played by Beth Brickell. And it’s easy to confuse Flipper with Gentle Ben, because in both shows, you’ve got a wild animal in the Florida Everglades.

King Kong

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1966


DAD: Professor Bond / Widower(?)

DAD’S JOB: Ape Scientist

KIDS: Bobby (10), Susan (9)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, maybe.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Unknown

Rankin-Bass updated the King Kong story in this briefly-lived cartoon. In this incarnation, King Kong makes friends with the Bond family on the island of Mondo, an island near Indonesia. Bad guys were always gunning for Kong and his friends, so most of the time Kong was rescuing the kids, or the kids were rescuing Kong.

Flipper

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1964-68

DAD: Porter Ricks (Brian Kelly) / Widower (?)

DAD’S JOB: Park Ranger

KIDS: Sandy (Luke Halpin)(15), Bud (Tommy Norden)(10)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, maybe.

STAND-IN “MOM”: either oceanographer Ulla Norstrand (Ulla Stromstedt) or Flipper (?) (Suzy the Porpoise)

Porter Ricks is the reason real-life Dads don’t get custody very often. Sandy and Bud were never were seen in school, never did homework, hardly ever wore sunblock or shirts in the Florida sun, lived in an alligator-infested swamp, and frequently wound up having guns pointed at them by criminals. It’s arguable that Mr. Ricks was no mental marvel, as he couldn’t remember to take off his street shoes before diving off the side of his Chris Craft (which he did about once an episode).

Update: Alert Viewer Chris (CFROSTY@aol.com) noted the second season appearance of semi-girlfriend/would-be stepmom Ulla Norstrand. Thanks for pointing her out, Chris!

Update: Alert Viewer Bob Stone says the boat used in Flipper was NOT a Chris Craft, but a 25-foot Thunderbird, made in North Miami. “It was a new design and was given to the show for promotion use.” The boat also had one of the first Inboard/Outboard engines from OMC – which was quite an innovation at the time. Thanks for the info, Bob!

Note: The series was resurrected in 1995, with Bud growing up to become a marine biologist. That series doesn’t count as a TV Single Dad show, though, because Porter Ricks is missing from the cast.

The Baileys of Balboa

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1964-65


DAD: Sam Bailey (Paul Ford) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Fishing Boat Captain

KIDS: Jim (Les Brown, Jr.)(16?)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN “MOM”: Buck Singleton? (Sterling Holloway)

Who could not like this show? Sam Bailey ran a charter boat service in the middle of a ritzy yacht club named Balboa. He and his son Jim (and their first mate, a Gilligan-like character played by the amazing Sterling Holloway) lived on an island that was the antithesis of the aristocratic society of the yacht club. Of course, teenager Jim was in love with the daughter of Commodore Wyntoon (John Dehner) and wacky hijinks ensued. The daughter, Barbara, was played by the then teenaged Judy Carne.

The cast of this show was an astounding collection of character actors. John Dehner has been the voice of millions of Hanna-Barbera characters, and Paul Ford made his mark as the Mayor in The Music Man. And who would not recognize Sterling Holloway, the voice of Winnie the Pooh?